Fishpond wetlands are man-made wetlands that are used for the cultivation of fish, shellfish, or other aquatic organisms. These wetlands are typically constructed by building a dam or levee to create a pond or lake, and are often used for both commercial and recreational purposes. Fish pond wetlands may be fed by a source of fresh water, such as a river or stream, or may be supplied with seawater. There are ancient Hawaiian fishponds and modern fishponds. And some ancient Hawaiian fishponds are being restored to become productive again. All types of fishponds provide unique wetland habitats, regardless of their age and condition. Many natural wetlands, pools, and waterbodies were adapted to become fishponds by ancient Hawaiians. So they have a dual status, both as wetlands and as fishponds. Many ancient fishponds have been lost and forgotten, especially many of the Loko Puʻuone (inshore ponds behind sandbars) that may have been buried by silt, tsunamis, and development.
In Maui County, there are many examples of fishpond wetlands, including:
- Wailea Agricultural Group: This fish pond wetland is located on the south shore of Maui, and is used for the cultivation of a variety of aquatic species, including tilapia, shrimp, and oysters.
- Ke’anae Fishpond: This fish pond wetland is located on the east side of Maui, and is used for the cultivation of a variety of aquatic species, including tilapia, shrimp, and oysters.
- Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge: This fishpond wetland is located on the south side of Maui, and is used for the cultivation of a variety of aquatic species, including tilapia, shrimp, and oysters.
- Makena (ancient) Hawaiian Fishponds, including Oneuli (Maluaka), Paniaka, Oneloa, Oneloamanu.
- Keawalaʻi Hawaiian Fishpond, in Makena.
- The Anchialine pools of South Maui were also used as Hawaiian fishponds.
All fishponds are wetlands, but not all wetlands are Fishponds: According to the Maui County Definition of a wetland can include Human-made wetlands, including Fishponds.
Hawaiian Laws differentiate between Fishponds and Hawaiian Fishponds: “Hawaiian fishponds” means the unique, traditional system and methodology of aquaculture practiced by the aboriginal people of Hawaii, and found nowhere else in the world. Generally referred to as “loko i‘a”, the system mastered by ancient Hawaiians includes but is not limited to loko kuapa, loko umeiki, and loko pu‘uone. Loko i‘a are natural or artificial enclosures; loko kuapa are enclosures built upon a reef, loko umeiki are a type of permanent fish-trap structure, and loko pu‘uone are enclosed by sand. The term does not include any fishpond designed in a manner or constructed for purposes other than those associated with traditional loko i‘a management and culture. [L 1995, c 177, pt of §2]
The First Fishpond in Hawaii: According to Hawaiian moʻolelo (oral traditions), Kūʻula built the first Hawaiian fishpond, or loko iʻa, on the island of Maui. Kūʻula was a fisherman of rare skill who is described as having supernatural powers for directing and controlling fish. He was said to be able to summon fish at will, and is venerated as the Hawaiian god of fishing. (Source, the-return-of-kuula)
Kealia Pond Maui Hawaii by Forest and Kim Starr (cropped)
Learn more about Six main types of Hawaiian Fishponds
Learn more about The Royal Fishponds of Kula Kai
Further reading: WETLANDS OF HAWAIʻI: Mauka to Makai, https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/wildlife/projects/state-wetland-wildlife-sanctuaries/